All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
By Sigrid Fowler
Freedom is worth celebrating–even beyond the 4th of July. It is central to Passover feasts. It’s what kids think about on the last day of school. Freedom is vacations, the day we burn the mortgage document or pay off that student loan, the day the cast comes off or the mortar board comes on. And freedom gets that graduation hat even higher into the air when the solemnities are over, diplomas in hand. Jesus said to a group of believing Jews, “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 36).
Free? What does he mean? Jesus has linked truth and staying in his word, adding: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). His listeners claim to bethe people of Abraham, those who have “never been enslaved.” Responding, he turns everything around and defines sin as slavery: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Jesus sets up a contrast to illustrate—the authority of a slave is contrasted to the authority of a child and heir. One, as ordered by the home owner, will open the door to an invited visitor and say “Welcome.” But a welcome bythe owner or one of his children is a different thing. The house is theirs. They can invite in those they want to welcome and leave the door closed on those they don’t. This scenario is played out in Jesus’ parable about the wise and foolish virgins. The unprepared, foolish virgins run out of oil as they wait for the Bridegroom to come. When those with lighted lamps celebrate his arrival, they are welcomed in to the festivities.The ones whose lamps are dark say, “ ‘Lord, lord, open to us,’ but he answers, ‘Truly, I say to you, I don’t know you,’” and they are not admitted (Matt 25: 1-12).
Both the parable and Jesus’ teaching on freedom implyboundaries. A life without boundaries isn’t recommended by anyone, psychologists or theologians or Jesus or his disciples. The closed door of the parable and the slave’s provisional welcome, as contrasted with the freedom of the house an owner or his children may offer, makes a common sensepoint. “Everybody needs a line that must not be crossed. Boundaries create trust,” says Caspar Walsh in his March 2010 piece for The Guardian, “A Life without Boundaries is a Life out of Control” (www.casparwalsh.co.uk). Who questions that?
On the week of the 4th, we think about freedom more than boundaries, however much one ironically is ensured by the other. The statement about the Son setting us free has the swish of an opening door, and it’s a topic worth pursuing.Jesus speaks of himself when he refers to the Son. A list of thirty translations of the John 8: 36 gives only a fewexceptions (Greek uses no caps): The word is written Son, not son (www.blueletterbible.org) and the equivalents in German, Spanish, French, or the Latin Vulgate. Jesus is talking about himself here. His favorite self-designation was Son of Man, but when he said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10: 30), his meaning was plain. Jesus was indeed the Son of Man, but the title (Ezekiel used it) seems, as with many common plant names, to refer to a unique identifier, something notable, exceptional—e.g., the “prickly poppy,” that, unlike otherpoppies, has leaves prickly as thistles. God the Son has always been God the Son. That he accepted the constraints of time and, in what we still call the First Century, took on mortal flesh changes nothing about his absolute identity as the second member of the Trinity.
Think about an invitation from such a source—better, an invitation from this Source! If God the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed! We can count on it, as surely as we can count on the tested veracity of one who said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14: 6). Jesus called himself “the door” (John 10: 7). Who has access and who doesn’t is the topic of more than one of Jesus’ parables—the Sheep and the Goats, the Wise and Foolish Virgins. What he’s saying about freedom is that those who, having heard his knock (Rev. 3: 20) and welcomed him in, will find themselves ushered in—into the kingdom–by the King himself. He has the right to say “Mi casa, su casa.” He has the authority to graciously welcome us into the Father’s house. It’s his house, and he’sdealt with the sin that would keep us on the outside. If you haven’t gone to that door to open it, I encourage you to do sonow.